Overcoming Substance Use Disorder as a New Mother

Overcoming substance use disorder (SUD) is no easy feat for anyone. For new mothers, attempting to overcome SUD or addiction presents unique challenges. Yet, whether a new mother is working to cease substance use while pregnant or during the first few weeks following childbirth, achieving sobriety is necessary to ensure the health of both the mother and the newborn. New mothers should breathe easier knowing that there are addiction professionals available to provide relevant support and guidance to help them recover from SUD.

At 12 South Recovery, we understand that no one is safe from the grips of substance use and that this includes new mothers. We offer several outpatient treatment programs that are individualized to fit the unique needs and recovery goals of each client we serve. Our outpatient programs can provide peer and professional accountability to new mothers through a routine schedule. This type of support can enable new mothers to prioritize their sobriety and recovery while also committing to the health and well-being of their newborns.

Factors Associated With Substance Use Among New Mothers

In addition to the inevitable pain of childbearing, new mothers will endure a variety of challenges during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Sleep deprivation, new feelings of anxiety or loneliness, breastfeeding challenges, interpersonal stressors, and more are common as new mothers assume their new parenting role. There is no question that new mothers can struggle to effectively cope with these challenges. Some may turn to alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate this distress.

To make matters even more complicated, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that mental health conditions, recent stressful life events, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with postpartum substance use. The report associated the following factors with higher rates of substance and polysubstance use (the use of multiple substances together) among new mothers:

  • Depression and depressive symptoms
  • Anxiety disorders and symptoms
  • Stressful life events
  • ACEs

Further, of those surveyed, “Substance use prevalence was higher among women who experienced six or more stressful life events during the year preceding the birth (67.1%) or four adverse childhood experiences related to household dysfunction (57.9%).” Given the added stressors endured by new mothers, this population is extremely vulnerable to the development of mental health disorders as well as SUD as a result of self-medicating practices. To effectively overcome SUD and any associated mental health disorders, new mothers must seek professional treatment.

The Dangers of Continued Substance Use for a New Mother

There are many risks involved with using alcohol and other substances not only during pregnancy but also while breastfeeding. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights the following dangers of substance use during pregnancy:

  • Stillbirth
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), “in which the baby goes through withdrawal upon birth”
  • Birth defects
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Small head circumference
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also highlights the following concerns associated with using substances while breastfeeding:

For newborns, these substances can cause:

  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Troubles with feeding

Even if a new mother is not breastfeeding, the newborn will reap many consequences of continued alcohol and drug use by a mother. An article by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights that children born to a parent with SUD are at higher risk of:

  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Increased difficulties in academic and social settings and with family functioning
  • Impaired cognitive development
  • Direct effects of substance abuse, such as parental abuse or neglect
  • Indirect effects of substance abuse, such as fewer household resources

How Professional Treatment Can Help a New Mother Overcome Substance Use Disorder

Social support is often limited to close family members and residents of the home. Yet, the support found within the home can be limited. One of the most valuable elements of a professional treatment program is that it provides individuals with the opportunity to leave their homes and connect with other peers in treatment. Oftentimes, new mothers are confined to their homes, especially during the first few weeks of life for their newborns. However, a lack of connection or communication with the outside world can prove harmful to the well-being of a new mother.

Moreover, the social support that is harnessed by participating in an addiction treatment program is essential in fostering lasting motivation, commitment, and accountability for sobriety. Peer support can allow new mothers to feel less alone in what they are thinking and experiencing. What’s more, this group setting helps them feel supported in their commitment to maintaining lasting abstinence. Group therapy modalities can foster new perspectives and understandings, ensuring that new mothers feel validated and encouraged in their lifelong recovery journey.

In addition, individual therapy modalities can promote useful professional support and guidance as new mothers learn to juggle parenting responsibilities with the challenges of continued sobriety. Various therapeutic approaches can be utilized in treatment, helping new mothers become more aware of their thoughts and behaviors. Treatment will also help new mothers identify and implement healthy coping strategies and stress management techniques, which can protect them against any self-medicating tendencies in the future.

Utilizing Outpatient Treatment at 12 South Recovery to Overcome Substance Use Disorder as a New Mother

At 12 South Recovery, we offer general outpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) for those seeking recovery from SUD and mental health disorders. Our outpatient programs allow new mothers to create a reliable and consistent treatment schedule, enabling them to tend to their childrearing responsibilities while establishing abstinence from addictive substances.

Overcoming SUD as a new mother often requires outside guidance and support. We can equip new mothers with the support resources, tools, and skills that they need to ensure that they and their newborns thrive.

New mothers are vulnerable to experiencing a plethora of stressors that can increase their risk of using alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate. However, substance use of any kind poses immense harm to the health and well-being of not only the new mother but also their newborn. If you or a loved one is a new mother working to overcome SUD, our outpatient programs at 12 South Recovery may be the perfect fit for you. Whether you choose a general outpatient program, intensive outpatient program (IOP), or partial hospitalization program (PHP), our outpatient treatment options offer the flexibility you need as a new mother in recovery. Call (888) 830-8374 to learn more.

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